The other night we had a spirited conversation with our Troop committee about, among other things, youth leadership and keeping older Scouts engaged.
One of the main ingredients of the Patrol method and effective youth leadership at the Troop level is that the youth run it. Well, no duh.. right. And sometimes that is not always a pretty process which in many cases parents are not happy seeing. And in many cases it has an adverse effect on the Scouts in the troop also. And there is the issue.
We can stand back and watch the Scouts struggle and bleed… or we can rush in and apply band-aids for every skinned knee.
Now if we are doing this right. We teach and coach, we train and mentor, and we allow knees to get skinned on occasion and see if the Scouts apply their own band aids. When the bleeding gets out of control.. there we are to assist in whatever the wound of the day is.
I presented that analogy to a parent the other night, I am pretty sure they got it, but I stressed that as a Scoutmaster we always try to find a good balance between the bleeding and the band-aids.
Scouts need to be in charge and allowed to make mistakes.. even fail. They need to struggle through some really bad meetings and then challenged to see where the issues are and make attempts and fixing them. We are always there with our first aid kits (figuratively speaking) to apply a band-aid when needed. Sometimes that band-aid comes in the form of a complete shut down, sometimes it’s a gentle talk with and offering of advice. But no matter what it is always the Scouts that come up with the solution, the right idea, and the plan to get out of the mess they are in.
Parents and Scouts alike do not like a disorganized and non productive meeting. I don’t mind them.. especially because they lead to teaching and learning opportunities…
But what of the Scouts (and parents) that decided that they are not patient enough to allow the process to work?
Well, they need to develop some patients, the Scouts need to be trained properly, and the program needs to be allowed to work. When those happen, learning happens and the Scouts start to see more success over failure.
If a Scout says they are going to leave… well, try to explain to them that this is all a part of the process. Ask them what they are doing to help. If they insist on leaving.. invited them back.
I don’t know that you can convince them all, those that get it get it. Those that don’t and refuse to be patient really don’t understand Scouting and what we are trying to accomplish here.
We are not a church club or a Cub Scout pack. We are trying to play a game with a purpose that forces young men to make decisions and develop leadership skills. We are asking that these same boys make ethical choices that will serve as the foundation of their decision-making for the rest of their lives. We are trying to show them through the process that life is hard and those that work hard, handle adversity well, and can work with others on a team will be successful in life. They will measure their success not in wealth, but in how they live a life of character.
So we can stand back and let them bleed a little, or we can rush in with the band-aids.
To be honest, I really don’t mind the sight of a little blood. It means that they are learning.
Before I get emails and comments about letting Scouts get hurt.. that is NOT what I am suggesting. It is just an analogy. If it doesn’t work for you so be it.
Train ’em..Trust ’em.. and let ’em lead!
Have a Great Scouting Day!